VILNIUS - For the first time in history, a Lithuanian film has been nominated for an Oscar. "Before Flying Back to Earth," a documentary by Arunas Matelis, will compete with 60 other movies in the Best Foreign Language Film category of next year's 79th Academy Awards.
"I am very happy about the news, not only because it is my movie and, to my knowledge, the first movie from the Baltic states nominated for an Oscar, but because that it's the first time that a documentary will compete among feature films," Matelis told The Baltic Times.
"Before Flying Back to Earth" is a 52 minute documentary produced in cooperation with ZDF/arte that provides a glimpse into the lives of children suffering from leukemia; their relationships with hospital doctors, parents and each other.
The film has already been praised in Europe, winning the Golden Pigeon Award at the Leipzig International Film Festival and the prestigious Silver Wolf Prize in Amsterdam's documentary festival. It was also nominated for a "European Oscar" 's the European Film Academy Award - in the documentary category.
Matelis' documentary even inspired Japanese businessmen to financially support leukemia clinics in Kaunas. "Lithuania invented medicine from cancer. It is this movie," Atsushi Makimoto, head of the Japanese National Cancer Center's pediatric department, was quoted by the local media as saying.
Asked whether he hopes to win America's most prestigious film award, the 46-year-old director modestly replied: "It is too early to comment."
"But I am very happy that members of the American Film Academy Commission, who will evaluate the nominees, will watch [my] film. This alone, I think, is already an achievement," Matelis said. "As for the awards, they only cause problems. You must buy a new suit, new shirts, fly somewhereâ€¦"
Matelis, a graduate of Vilnius University's mathematics faculty and the Lithuanian Music Academy's theatre and TV faculty, and has been making documentaries since 1992. The nationally revered filmmaker has directed some 10 documentaries and produced approximately 20 movies. Matelis also heads the independent production company NOMINUM.